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Archive for February 2010

“A Torment That Seemed Worse Than Hell Could Ever Be”

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The quiet young mother of two, Mary Gally, looked anxiously out the front door of her Kentucky home. The school bus was bringing her twin girls home. She couldn’t wait to see them. They were seven (7) years old and as pretty as two little girls could be. They were her pride and joy.

The bus stopped across the street. It’s lights flashed red and yellow warnings. The door opened and out bounced the girls. They walked in front of the bus crossing the street. A drunk driver ignored all warnings and sped past the bus killing both of them while their mother watched in horror.

It was a torment to her mind and to her heart that seemed worse than hell could ever be. For days she lived in numbness. She burnt candles for them at church. It seemed that the solace she desperately needed, she couldn’t find. Her Catholic upbringing provided no answers, solutions or comfort. She was totally empty.

She prayed the rosary, she went to the confessional, and nothing helped. She closed the shades on the windows of her heart and it seemed impossible to comfort her.

The pictures of the horrible scene replayed in her mind several times a day. They wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t go away. How many times does a mother have to watch her babies die?

Mary began to find temporary comfort in the bottle. It wasn’t a solution. She knew that. It only helped for a few hours a day. Drinking seemed to lessen the pain. Her dependency grew.

A year or so slipped by and Mary slid deeper and deeper into her despair. Someone invited her to Life Tabernacle in Hopkinsville, KY. Mary prayed and in her desperation reached out to the Lord and He filled her with the Holy Ghost.

Mary came alive. Oh yes, there is still a quietness about her that lingers still, but her heart came alive. She enjoyed church. She grew in the Lord and in His Word. After the pastor felt that she was established and grounded in the truth, she was invited to teach a Sunday School class. She accepted.

She always sat on the 1st or 2nd row during regular church services. It seemed like she couldn’t wait for altar call. She willingly prayed with others. God had given her a gift of praying people through to the Holy Ghost. No one has ever seen anyone like her. In one week she personally prayed 25 through in her church. She did it with such easy grace and effectiveness. At every altar service Mary could be found praying with seekers.

After teaching for a while, Sis. Mary asked that if an opening ever came, she would like to teach the seven (7) year old’s Sunday School Class. They’re seemed to be a healing in that thought for her.

The 7 year olds got a new teacher. Sis. Mary was in the fulfillment of her dream. She now was surrounded by children the same age hers were. The kids loved her. The class grew. She helped it grow. She specialized in turning the conclusion of each Sunday School class session into an invitation to seek for the Holy Ghost.

A couple of years ago, Sis. Mary Gally prayed seventy (70) seven (7) year olds through to the Holy Ghost in her Sunday School class, in one year!

She had taken her pain, and turned it around using it for the glory of God, the furtherance of His Kingdom.

Knowing her personally, I stood with pride and let tears run down my cheek at the General Conference of the UPCI. I watched her being honored. This incredible woman of God was presented the “Sunday School Teacher Of The Year Award!” She had prayed more children through to the Holy Ghost in her class in one year than any teacher on record!

Epilogue:

Today, Sis. Mary Gally and her husband have two wonderful children, a daughter and a son, both grown. Her daughter is very active in the church. Her son is now the Associate Pastor with Bishop Adams in Hopkinsville, and he also is the Conquerors President for the State of Kentucky.

Don’t die till you meet Sis. Mary Gally! You’ll love her too!

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm

“The Enemy Would Rather Wound Than Kill”

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“The Enemy Would Rather Wound Than Kill”

A friend of mine was stationed briefly at Fort Ord during the Viet Nam war. He was taught that the Viet Cong would make traps, and dig pits with sharpened and poisoned sticks in them to injure the soldier, but not kill him instantly. They sharpened sticks to pierce his feet or body. The poison would get into his blood and bring slow death.

Punji stakes are a soldier’s nightmare. They are set precisely to cause great pain. They are carefully sharpened bamboo sticks positioned behind logs that GI’s step must over. Sometimes they are spread across entire fields.

“Charlie” would rather wound with “Punji” stakes dipped in a special excrement brew. He would rather cause a slow painful death.

He knew that it takes more men to care for a wounded soldier and give him back his health than to care for a dead one.

The reason they wanted to injure and not kill, was if a soldier was injured, the US Army had to stop fighting long enough to care for the wounded. If enough get wounded, others have to stop fighting to tend to them.

The enemy of our soul thinks the same way too! We all know some that have been wounded by horrible life experiences, addictions, unkind comments and the actions of others.

  • If people in a church get wounded…
  • If one of our friends gets wounded…
  • If one of our family gets wounded…
  • If people in a organization get wounded…

We stop fighting the enemy momentarily, and concern ourselves with the injuries and injustices done to those we love and know. Our heart aches for their pain. We do our best to help.

  • Yes, we should help.
  • Yes, we need to help them,
  • But never fail to recognize the strategy of the enemy.
  • We are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices.
  • He wishes to distract us all.
  • He wants us to focus on ourselves, our injury, our pain, our loss.

I have great sympathy for the injury of others. I grieve for them, I too am aware that we can only focus just so long on “us”, because there’s still a battle to be fought. I’m so sorry for those that have been injured.

My advice to us all, is “Let’s don’t lay our weapons down, let’s keep fighting, regardless! The battle is not over yet!

God Bless You!!

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 15, 2010 at 7:49 am

Posted in Christian Living, Grief

A Remembrance Of Falling In Love

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A Remembrance Of Falling In Love

Celebrating 45 Valentine’s Days Of Being In Love With You, Marcia June Starr Ballestero.

By Martyn Ballestero Sr.

Love’s First Look

The snow fell gently in big wet flakes. It already stood 5 or 6 inches deep in the street. This was Sunday night. The first night of the Youth Revival in Albion, Michigan and I was the youth evangelist. My Dad had loaned me his year old 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix. The pastor, your father, Bro. William Starr had said that he would like for me to come for a couple of weeks and preach for him and we would start right after Thanksgiving.

I arrived about a half hour early before service that night. In the darkness, as the car slowly turned the corner onto Crandall Street toward the parsonage, the headlights illuminated you, the most gorgeous young woman I had ever seen. You clasped the open driver’s door of your parent’s automobile and waited for my car to pass. Not knowing that your future and mine would be forever tied to that moment.

Darling, as you stood by the car under the street light with those giant snow flakes cascading into your softly curled hair, my heart nearly stopped. I was totally smitten by your beauty. I announced out loud to the Lord right then, “Oh Lord, if I have to fight that while I’m here, I’m never going to win!” I fell helplessly in love with you at that moment and have never recovered.

I don’t know how I managed to preach that night or any of the other nights. It was hard to focus on heavenly thing with so much earthly beauty just sitting there looking at me.

Every day those first two weeks I secretly drank in your beauty with my eyes and ears. I memorized how you looked, and talked and smiled.  When I went to sleep in the basement bedroom at the church every night, and closed my eyes, I could still see your face.

If you remember, the orchestra sat on the platform just a little in front of and to the left of the minister’s chairs. That meant that every night of the revival, I sat almost right behind you while you played your saxophone. I had a great view of you, watching you play and worship. However spiritual we might have tried to be, I still had a great view when you stood up and sat down. I tried not to let your Father catch me stealing a peek. You looked picture perfect to me. But this was church, you know, and I had to keep my mind on spiritual things.

I almost “blew it” the first time I ever spoke directly to you. You had in your arms some red material to make a bridesmaid’s dress for yourself for Vicky Jordan’s wedding. I had just finished preaching for C.W. Shew, and with him, everything was wrong. He even preached against the wearing of red.

I tried to tease you and get you to laugh. So, lacking for a better opening line, I came out with, “You know you’ll go to hell for wearing red, don’t you?” You did not see any humor in that comment and to my knowledge, you did not respond. You just moved away. I thought, Oh boy! I’m an idiot!

I was grateful that your Mother was so approachable.  I enjoyed visiting with her.  She listened to me talk and made me feel comfortable around her.  She played a major role in our getting together I think.  I did everything I could to win her heart. She had won mine. I loved everything about her.  Your Dad made me feel uncomfortable, but I could really relax around your Mom. Your Dad was never mean. It’s just a guy thing.

Inside Information

Scotty and Jenny Teets came over to the revival from Jackson one night.  After service, Scotty, who is about six years older than I, began his “big brother” sales pitch on what a wonderful a girl you were and how lucky I would be to go out with you. I couldn’t have agreed more.  Besides, he continued, she is Jenny’s cousin and we will not only be friends but we would be family.  I liked everything about that idea I told him, besides, I said, “She’s Beautiful!”

Jenny confided in hushed conspiratorial tones, that she knew for a fact that you were interested in me.  But she continued; don’t let her know that I told you that.

Whew! You might be interested in me?  Was I hearing her right? Hallelujah! That’s the highest praise.

You? You, the girl of my dreams? Oh yes, you were the girl of my dreams alright. I had wonderful dreams about you. In my dreams, we held hands. In my dreams I held you in my arms and kissed you deeply.  In my dreams your response was wonderful beyond description. I never wanted to wake up.

I was thrilled with this new piece of inside information. However, my insecurities argued and got the best of me.  The girl who could have any boy in Pentecost. The girl who turned all the boys’ heads was willing to accept advances from me. How could that be?  I was this nerd who looked like a poster boy for a new Zits medication.  You know, the “before” shot.  And to make matters worse, the more nervous I got, the more the zits seemed to appear. I was mortified with my looks. I was horribly insecure.

The First Walk

The last Sunday night of the Youth Revival couldn’t come too soon for me. I knew I shouldn’t date and hold revivals at the same time. I wanted to get to know you better and to be with you. I wasn’t focusing on ministry, I was focusing on Marcia.

After church that last night we had a good meal and a nice visit with your family.  I said “goodnight” to your parents and you walked me to the door.  We went outside and stood in the snow and cold. It was very cold and you stood there without a coat.

We talked for awhile and I put my suit coat around your shoulders to keep you warm. When I finally offered to go to my room, you volunteered to walk with me back to the church. That was so sweet. A girl walking a guy.  It didn’t get much better than that.

When we got to the church, I didn’t want you to walk back to the house by yourself and without a coat besides, so I walked you back to the house. Memory fades on me at this point but it seems like we made 4 or 5 round trips at least that night.

We held hands to try and keep warm. There is just something about snowy Michigan nights and romance and holding hands. I was in love. I was in Love with a capital L. It felt wonderful beyond description. This was just too good to be true.

The Monday To Remember

Monday morning dawned with a snow storm advisory on the news. It looked like a foot of snow was already on the ground.  My parents had told me that the funeral of Bro Oscar Hughes was that afternoon and they really hoped I would go with them.

Your Father announced that there was a Minister’s Meeting that night and he planned to go in spite of the snow. He asked if I’d like to go with him.

I decided that Bro. Hughes funeral would go on without me. It was a no-brainer. If I agreed, I got to spend one more day near you. I chose you.

The trip to the Minister’s Meeting was uneventful, just two guys in the car talking about unimportant things. The meal was fine, as was fellowship of the brethren. Because of the bad storm, the ride home was exceedingly treacherous. The snow was deep. Hardly any cars ventured out. The going was very slow. Somehow, the conversation changed from generalities to specifics. Your father wanted to know more about this guy whose name he was hearing around his house.

“You’re not one of them Pentecostal Romeos are you?” he blurted out as he rubbed the back of his neck briskly while biting on both his upper and lower lips at the same time. There is no school that can prepare a young man for a comment like that. It just came waltzing in out of nowhere. I felt the “fear of the father” start to turn my stomach into knots.

“Oh no sir,” was all that could come out of my mouth. When I said it I just knew it didn’t sound convincing enough. But to his credit and my peace of mind he didn’t pursue that avenue of questioning. Instead he somehow must have picked up early on the fact that I just might be the guy who would get serious about his daughter. So he moved from the challenging line of questioning to the father and son mode.

He glanced at me for a moment as he still tried to stay on the slick road and confided to me a lower tone. “A man loves with his eyes, but a woman loves with her ears.”  That was a little gem of information I filed away in my brain and chose never to forget. I don’t remember any more meaningful conversation in the car that night. We were almost home and I was very relieved. The male bonding for the night was behind us. Thank the Lord.

When we arrived back in Albion it was almost 2am. Yet the lights were on and the sight and smell of candles and food created an inviting atmosphere. We were greeted by two beautiful women, you and your Mom. You both had your hair done up so pretty. And had on what looked like new housecoats that were soft looking and beautiful. The color red still stands out in my mind.

The smell of toast and hot chocolate brought us straight into the kitchen and we all sat down and enjoyed the refreshment. As if on signal your parents said goodnight as your Mom pointed out that she had made a bed for me on the couch. It was right by her bedroom door.  I had just been upgraded from staying in the church basement to sleeping in the house.

As you cleaned up in the kitchen, I quickly got ready for bed. I crawled into bed totally exhausted from the trip. I cast a skeptical eye of the slightly open bedroom door of the master bedroom. It was only inches from the couch.

You turned off the lights and came by the couch on your way upstairs to your bedroom. In one fluid movement, as you brushed by the couch, you stooped quickly and kissed me square on the lips and said goodnight as you turned and bounded up the stairs. You had turned out all the lights in the house, but you had just turned all of mine on.

Excuse me!

A few weeks later I came back through Albion on my way to preach a revival for your Grandpa at his church in Lansing. I visited awhile and ate with your family. As I prepared to go, you gave me my first gift from you. It was a birthday gift. A beautiful red shirt decorated with nice designs. It was imported and looked expensive. I really felt valued.

I thanked you for the gift and before turning to leave took you into my arms and kissed you goodbye. Your lips were so soft and yielding. It was like heaven to me. The sweetness of that kiss still lingers on in my mind. My brain and my emotions went into the “this is ecstasy” mode. Before I could come up for air, I heard “Oh excuse me!”

I turned in time to see your father rubbing the back of his neck again as he shuffled his feet on the carpet back into the other room. My first kiss to you got ended abruptly, and was not very private. But Lord, what a kiss! It was wonderful. I’ve never stopped loving your sweet kisses. They just keep getting better. Even after 45 years.

Happy 45th Valentine’s Day, My Darling! I’m In Love With You!

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

Posted in Love, Romance

Private Sorrow – Part 1 “The Funeral”

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Private Sorrow

By

Martyn Ballestero

“A short journal about adult children dealing with the final days of their parent’s life.”

This was written for the benefit of my immediate family. Knowing that it was impossible for us all to go and see Dad as he began to near the end, I thought it important to chronicle these events. No matter how mundane, I wanted to remember everything. Much can be lost over the years in the relating of experiences by word of mouth. So I wanted to record things big and small as they happened and as I saw them.

Table of Contents

The Funeral                  Part 1

The Fear                        Part 2

The Flight                     Part 3

With Dad                      Part 4

Day-By-Day                  Part 5

Epilogue                        Part 6

Part 1

The Funeral

The audience is solemn faced and quiet as the musicians do their best to play a comforting hymn. I stand at the head of the casket. Friends and neighbors have just paid their last respects in single file. All eyes are on the family as they stand. They are broken and tearful as they mouth their final farewells. Shoulders are heaving. They cling to each other for support.

As the pastor, I know I need to go and try to comfort them, especially the especially the widow. Somehow, I’m frozen in place. My head says to go, but my body is not responding.

Bro. Lee Silver, a faithful and well-loved member of the congregation lies in a beautiful casket beside me on the left. He had lived a good life. He was a worshipper and a pastor’s friend. His dear wife had nursed him through a bout with cancer. With that seemingly behind him, he then found himself dealing with what was symptomatic of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The final report from the doctor said, “Jacob Crutchfield’s Disease.” I’d never heard of that before.

In the hospital room a few weeks prior, Sister Silvers and her oldest daughter told me about the dark side of the disease. Among others, they’d listed:

  • Confusion.
  • Loss of memory. Especially short term.
  • Involuntary shaking or jerking of the limbs.
  • Degrees of hallucination.
  • Talking to non-visible people
  • Picking up imaginary objects and moving them.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Inability to swallow with ease.
  • Just eating a bite or two a day of solids.
  • Pursing lips at food, fluids, or pills.
  • Dehydration.
  • Not recognizing family members.
  • Inability to properly void fluids.
  • Closing of the eyes most of the time, even when someone is talking to them.
  • Vacant look in opened, yet unseeing eyes.
  • Incoherent mutterings and ramblings.
  • Voice loss. Communicating in whispers, quiet whispers at best.

“Oh no God,” I remember thinking. These symptoms fit my father to a tee. He’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and severe prostate problems. They feared it might be cancer. And now, Mom was waiting for the report to come back on Dad’s Bone Marrow test.

It seemed that whatever symptoms Bro. Silvers had, in about a 3-4 weeks, Daddy would have the same problem. It became scary and almost prophetic.

Two weeks ago, while in the hospital, Bro. Silvers had quit opening his eyes to talk to visitors. He couldn’t or wouldn’t swallow. Malnutrition and dehydration had become a serious issue. Next came the transfer to a nursing home. Within a week, it was like the Lord had said, “That’s enough.” He sent for Bro. Silvers, relieving him of his struggle. My wife, Marcia and I had heard the nurse tell Sis. Silvers that, “The Lord has just taken your husband home.” We hadn’t wanted to intrude too deep or too long into the family’s private grief. It was sweet how the Lord had allowed us to be there when we were needed.

I looked at Sis. Silvers now. She stood looking down at her husband. Her eyes were red and wet. Her hands nervously worked new creases into her freshly ironed hanky. My wife had materialized beside me, available to help minister. The funeral director, a fine young man, had gone to the widow’s side, his arm around her giving her support. He was doing my job. I felt very guilty, but still I couldn’t seem to bring myself to respond to her need.

My ears alerted me back to reality. I could tell that the organ was playing alone. The piano had stopped. Why? Then without turning my head, I knew why. The sobs of the piano player were deep and heart wrenching. Yet I knew she wasn’t mourning like that for Bro. Silvers. She was deep in her own private sorrow.

I knew immediately why the pianist was crying. I knew because she’s my sister, Carlene Branham. I wanted to cry with her. I felt just like she did. I made myself maintain composure. We had to finish this service. Our personal pain couldn’t be allowed to be so transparent, now.

With the help of the Lord we all escorted our departed friend and brother to his final earthly abode, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.  I couldn’t find my Minister’s “Star” Book, so I was compelled to make all of my remarks from heart and the “committal” from memory. The congregation stood around the gravesite and sang: “In The Sweet Bye And Bye.”

As we left the cemetery in the funeral car, I felt a sense of foreboding. Not even the lighthearted conversation from the funeral director helped. I had to go home and pack. My flight to California was early in the morning. Tomorrow, I’d be with Mom and Dad.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

Posted in Family, Grief, Life

Private Sorrow – Part 2 “The Fear”

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Part 2

The Fear

I’d seen them just two months ago. We’d all been there for their 50th Anniversary; my sisters Carlene, Ramona and Nila, and their families. Dad wasn’t doing very well then. But recently it had gotten worse. A lot worse. Mom wasn’t her cheerful self. Her voice sounded awful close to the breaking point on the phone these past several months. Sometimes she’d vented her pain with tears. Then she’d apologize as if she’d done something wrong or shown a weakness of some kind.

Mom always prayed early in the morning. Sometimes when I called I could still hear the sounds of left-over prayer in her voice. Prayer had always come easy for Mom. Now it was even easier.

Daddy the Pastor, Evangelist, Bible Teacher, Conference, Camp Meeting Speaker and Author was revered and honored by most all who knew him. Over fifty years in the ministry spent burning the candle at both ends. Some years, he had preached more sermons than there were days in the year. These were things we remembered about our Dad. But now, that’s what they seemed. Just memories.

They’d lost their home. The generosity of Bro. Fletcher, Bro. Frazier and the precious Fontana, CA. saints had provided them with a house they could stay in, Bro. Bill Buie and the wonderful saints from Hollywood, FL had given them a new car. How grateful I felt that others had been able to do things that I wasn’t able to do for Dad and Mom. I’ve always felt guilty about that.

The generosity of the sweet people I pastor had made itself manifest just three days before. After service Wednesday night, an announcement was made and everyone responded. They gave me an offering to buy a ticket to go see my Dad. I bought it the next day.

Why was I dreading to see my Dad? It was totally a new emotion for me. I felt guilty. I’d never felt a sense of (Could I dare say it?) dread before. I was having a very tough time processing in my emotions all the horror stories of disease and ageing that I’d received from home. How in the world was Mom able to cope? The worst they said I could imagine, was happening.

Bless Mom. My worst fears nagged at me. I could stay ten (10) days. I didn’t want to see the “worst that could happen.” I just wanted to see Daddy.

The travel agent had said, “Mister, we can save you lots of money if you care to book a flight fourteen days in advance.” I responded that I might not have two weeks. I want my Dad to know me, and money can’t buy that.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

Posted in Family, Grief, Life

Private Sorrow – Part 3 “The Flight”

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Part 3

The Flight

“Southwest, flight #1381 from Chicago to Phoenix shuddered through the overcast clouds. I shuddered too. All the kisses, well wishes and waves were now memories. I was on a plane with a sense of loneliness.

As a pastor, it’s normal to spend your life supporting and comforting the flock. Today, it seems like some of my streets only run one way. I go to the hospital, nursing home, or wherever for others. No one is here for me. I guess that’s the lot of a minister. Everyone feels he’s strong enough or knows all the right words. Pastors are human. They can hurt too. I’m surprised that not many have figured that out yet.

I guess I’m in the middle of a pity party. I feel tears wanting to come. I must be a big baby. Mom needs me to be strong for her. Today, I don’t feel strong. Where’s this special strength from the Lord that I preach about? Where? Where is it found?

Somehow the roles between parent and child change over the years. I used to be dependant upon Mom and Dad for everything. Now they look to me, the first born, to make decisions for them. I don’t relish the thoughts of making mistakes with their lives.

Tears of fear fall silently. I’m paranoid. I know Daddy won’t look like he did a couple of months ago. He weighs 142 lbs. Mom said. He loses 2-4 pounds every week. Mom needs some time off. Maybe I can help.

She needs to get out of the house. Nurses from Hospice come by and check on him. We haven’t allowed the word “nursing home” to be mentioned yet.

Numbly I mutter a silent prayer, “God help me today, it seems unfair that I help others and there is no one to help me. Who’s going to give me what I need?”

“I am.” The Lord seemed to impress upon me.

The flight is “Open Seating”. Two fresh-faced young people ask to sit by me. Newlyweds. They’re a darling couple. They just got married yesterday. As they sit beside me the talk of their honeymoon plans and new home and jobs in a new state.

They took turns reading aloud from the Bible, their Sunday School lesson and the book ‘One Plus One Equals One”. I watch their excitement with life grow. Fingers point to interesting sites on the ground below. This was their first flight. I felt a twinge. While life was coming to an end in one place, it was just starting here. I wished them the best.

I had listened to Sis. Nona Freeman’s tape about “I Am My Beloved’s And He Is Mine.” She spoke of giving thanks in all things. Her husband had a car wreck and was severely injured. Instead of praying desperately, she had simply said something like, “God, I thank you my husband had a wreck and is near death.” Amazingly, God had given them a miracle.

I thought I’d try that approach. “Lord, I thank you that my Father has Alzheimer’s and is dying.” I sat there a minute. “Lord, it sounds sarcastic when I say it. I’m sorry.” I guess that scripture don’t work for me.

I changed planes at Phoenix. I now sat on Flight #386 to Ontario. Once we were off the ground, I looked up at the “call” button. “Passenger in 10-D needs your help Lord.”

My writing is interrupted by the voice of the flight attendant as she leans over my seat. Carol, a grandmother of a 9 year old, speaks in her soft Texas drawl.

She said, “pardon me sir, but two people have noticed you writing and we’ve decided that you must be an author or writer of some kind. If I might be so bold as to ask, What are you writing about? I want to know too”

I tried to explain in my best “Reader’s Digest Version.” Tears welled up in her eyes. She let them fall. Still clutching her tray she stood there for five minutes or more. She consoled me, telling me of her experiences with her parents dying with Alzheimer’s and how she made it through. I couldn’t believe it. She, a total stranger, was ministering to me. Like He’d done for Elijah, The Lord had sent a “Raven” to minister to my needs, even at 33,000 feet. I felt better.

On leaving, she said her aged Grandmother had once said, “I don’t want to be a blessing. I want to die before I am a blessing.” When I asked what she meant, she said, “You know when someone is sick and lingers a long time, how they always say that it was a ‘blessing’ when they die?” She said, “I don’t want to be a blessing.”

We both chuckled. I told Carol that she was a credit to the airline she represented, and thanked her for caring.

We landed without incident in Ontario. Upon disembarking, I told her that she was a treasure and thanked her again. Standing at the door by the pilot, she threw open her arms and said, “Come here, I wanta give ya a hug.”

She did. (I hoped the Lord and Marcia understood.) I looked out of the plane onto the ground below. My Mother stood behind the fence waiting for me. I walked down the stairs to the tarmac, out in the open air. Mom started waving her arms. Her hug was long, tight and emotional. I was glad to be here. It felt like home.

During the car trip to the house, I read a few excerpts from the pages I’d written. Mom’s driving became erratic as her vision blurred and she fumbled for a tissue. We both had a little cry.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 9, 2010 at 11:17 am

Posted in Family, Grief, Life

Private Sorrow – Part 4 “With Dad”

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Part 4

With Dad

I brought my luggage inside and deposited everything in the living room. I didn’t know where Mom wanted me to stay. The friends that had stayed with Dad while Mom picked me up, excused themselves and left.

I walked down the long hall to the bedroom. No ‘nursing home’ smells. I was greatly relieved. The bathroom had a handicap frame around the stool. A red wheel chair stood at ready. A folded walker was in the corner. The hospital bed was elevated.

Dad laid there in his favorite blue pajamas. They were a gift from Carlene. His face was hollow. His eyes were sunken greatly into his noble brow. His mouth was kind slack and his upper teeth dropped down looking quite scary.  He smiled. He had recognized me. His hand reached for mine. I took it in mine. I hugged and kissed him. Relief settled over me. Thank you Lord. Even this much is a gift!

Daddy could only speak in whispers. I had to lean over him to hear, and even then I only got parts of what he said.

Daddy perked up. Mom was elated. The table was set for three. Dad wanted to eat with me. He scooted down the hall hanging onto Mom as she walked backwards supporting him. Three times during the meal, dad had to get up and go to the bathroom. His prostate complicated the process. All the trips were unprofitable. He didn’t seem to stay seated but for a few minutes (sometimes seconds) at a time.

The trips back and forth were drawn out and tedious. The result was I ate most of my meal alone. Mom has the patience of Job. Dad is walking today, sometimes even unassisted. “I can’t believe it,” Mom says.

He stands with his shoulders stooped over. His 6’1” frame once stood tall and noble. Now he seems like he’s six inches shorter. The way he slumps when he stands seems uncomfortable and precarious. He shuffles his feet, push one ahead of the other, inches at a time. I hurt looking at him. His expressions seem starry-eyed and distant. His voice is still barely audible.

I have to run to the store down the street. When I get home 20 minutes later, Mom is elated. Dad wanted to pray. Mom had been playing the piano. He’d come up behind her, touching her shoulders, and suggested the have prayer together. Mom said he prayed good and spoke in tongues a good while. She is so happy. “You know, from time to time Daddy says he see angels,” she said.

Daddy sat in his wheelchair facing me. He spoke. He spoke in a whisper. His posture was pitiful. He kept fidgeting and changing his leg positions. He’s uncomfortable and it shows. His deep-set eyes search and finally find me.

He says, “I want to give you a charge.”

I nod and say, “OK Daddy.” I’m straining to catch every word.

“Preach the Word.

“Stay true to this Message.

“Take good care of your

“Mother when I’m gone.

“Take good care of the family.

“Take care of the family car.”

I promised him I would. We embraced. I thanked him and told him I loved him.

I spent my first night in Mom and Dad’s old bedroom.

Written by Martyn Ballestero

February 9, 2010 at 11:15 am

Posted in Family, Grief, Life